Forecasting landscape changes is vital for developing and implementing sustainable urban planning. Presently, apart from lowland coastal cities, mountain cities (i.e., hill stations) are also facing the negative impacts of rapid urbanization due to their economic and social importance. However, few studies are addressing urban landscape changes in hill stations in Asia. This study aims to examine and forecast landscape changes in the rapidly urbanizing hill station of Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka. Landsat data and geospatial techniques including support vector machines, urban–rural gradient, and statistical analysis were used to map and examine the land use/land cover (LULC) change in Nuwara Eliya during the 1996–2006 and 2006–2017 periods. The multilayer perceptron neural network-Markov model was applied to simulate future LULC changes for 2027 and 2037. The results show that Nuwara Eliya has been directly affected by rapid urban development. During the past 21 years (1996–2017), built-up areas increased by 1791 ha while agricultural land declined by 1919 ha due to augmented urban development pressure. The pressure of urban development on forest land has been relatively low, mainly due to strict conservation government policies. The results further show that the observed landscape changes will continue in a similar pattern in the future, confirming a significant increase and decrease of built-up and agricultural land, respectively, from 2017 to 2037. The changes in agricultural land exhibit a strong negative relationship with the changes in built-up land along the urban–rural gradient (R2
were 0.86 in 1996–2006, and 0.93 in 2006–2017, respectively). The observed LULC changes could negatively affect the production of unique upcountry agricultural products such as exotic vegetables, fruits, cut flowers, and world-famous Ceylon tea. Further, unplanned development could cause several environmental issues. The study is important for understanding future LULC changes and suggesting necessary remedial measures to minimize possible undesirable environmental and socioeconomic impacts.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited